Israel Ignores Court Order to Grant Work Visas to Darfur Asylum Seekers

Tribunal ruled that state can’t deprive people of basic rights, while keeping them waiting indefinitely for response to asylum request.

Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior
Asylum seekers at the entrance to Holot detention facility, December 29, 2015.
Asylum seekers at the entrance to Holot detention facility, December 29, 2015.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Ilan Lior
Ilan Lior

Flouting court orders, the Interior Ministry’s Population, Immigration and Border Authority is refusing to issue work visas to people from the Darfur region of Sudan who applied for asylum over two years ago and are still waiting for a response.

The special appeals tribunals that deal with immigration and status issues have in recent months instructed the authority to grant work visas to several of these asylum seekers. Around a month ago a decision in principle was made on this issue, in which the Tel Aviv appeals tribunal ruled that the authority must issue work visas to all asylum seekers from Darfur who submitted asylum requests before mid-February 2015 and never got a response.

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“A situation in which an administrative authority doesn’t make a decision for years isn’t reasonable or proper, even more so when we’re dealing with a decision involving the realization of basic rights and there’s no clear outlook regarding the end of the process,” the court ruled.

The population authority recently clarified in a different appeal that it does not accept this decision in principle and as far as it’s concerned it affects only the asylum seeker for whom the ruling was made and not others in similar situations. “The ruling was specific and doesn’t have consequences for other cases,” the authority told the tribunal in response to a request by another man from Darfur, who had submitted an asylum request more than two-and-a-half years ago, to cancel his summons to appear at the Holot detention center and to instead give him status in Israel.

Judge Bafi Tam, who had also made the decision in principle, rejected the population authority’s position and accepted the man’s appeal. She ordered the authority to cancel his summons to Holot and give him a work visa if he did not receive a response to his request for asylum within three months. She also ordered the authority to pay court costs of 1,500 shekels ($389).

The state has been systematically ignoring asylum requests submitted by people from Darfur. Only one, Mutasim Ali, has been granted refugee status and that was after a long struggle and after pressure was exerted by the court and the attorney general. Three months ago the authority informed the Tel Aviv appeals tribunal that it had decided not to summon any more asylum seekers from Darfur to Holot, because most of them were waiting for decisions on their asylum requests. Nevertheless, many Darfur natives remain in Holot, and more have been summoned there despite the authority’s declaration to the tribunal.

Earlier this week it was revealed that the population authority has for two years been hiding a professional legal opinion by the Refugee Status Determination unit examining the asylum requests, which said the state must recognize all those who came from Darfur as refugees. Several times in recent years, including last month, the state told the courts that no comprehensive policy had been formulated regarding the asylum seekers from Darfur.

According to the population authority, there are 8,000 Sudanese nationals in Israel, 2,500 of them from the Darfur region. The previous interior ministers, Gideon Sa’ar, Gilad Erdan and Silvan Shalom, along with current Interior Minister Arye Dery, refused to adopt the legal opinion and have instead instituted policies aimed at pressuring the asylum seekers to leave Israel. Many of them have been held in the Holot detention facility for long periods.



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